I agonized for a few days over what kind of brilliant advice I should share with you on this 1,000th post since the launch of the BrandBuilder blog before finally realizing that no. 1,000 is no different from 999, 1,001 or 356. So no more pondering, no more worrying about writing an epic post (the time for that will come again in due time), and no more waiting around for inspiration to strike. Today, instead of talking about social media, brand management, who does what well and who does what poorly, let’s just talk a little bit about leadership. Corporate leadership, that is.
And instead of doing all the talking, I will let people with a whole lot more experience than me give you some tips about how to become a better leader. Great stuff that transcends the typical leadership quotation mill.
Anne Mulcahy – Former CEO of Xerox
In a crisis, you have the opportunity to move quickly and change a lot – and you have to take advantage of that.
Change doesn’t happen if you don’t work at it. You’ve got to get out there, give people the straight scoop, and get buy-in. It’s not just good-looking presentations; it’s letting people ask the tough questions. It’s almost got to be done one person at a time.
There’s not a lot of room anymore for senior people to be managers. They have to be leaders. I want people to create organizations that get aligned, get passionate, get really inspired about delivering.
Stories exist at every level of the company. Whether it was saving a buck here, or doing something different for customers, everyone has a story. That creates powerful momentum – people sense that they’re able to do good things. It’s much more powerful than the precision or elegance of the strategy.
I communicate good news the same way I do the bad news. I thank people and make sure they feel a sense of recognition for their contribution. But the trick is always to to use the opportunity to talk about what’s next, to pose the next challenges. Where do we want to go? How do we want to build on it?
Margaret Heffernan – Author, The Naked Truth
Nothing kills morale like a staff’s feeling helpless. This often plays itself out when there are rumors of a new strategic shift or a major personnel move, or worse, when the papers are littered with bad news about your company. A big part of boosting morale is about constructing a haven of logic that offers individuals shelter from any storm. At its most basic, leaders have to communicate their awareness of business conditions and place their plans in that context. Each time [a CEO outlines] a future that comes true, he demonstrates his own competence and reinforces trust.
The happiest people aren’t the ones with the most money but those with a sense of purpose – a sense that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. At least some of this has to derive from work. The purpose of a business, then, must be explicit and go beyond boosting the share price or fulfilling some bland mission statement. People want to believe that they are part of something meaningful. The sense of purpose doesn’t have to be grandiose or revolutionary, merely credible and anchored in values.
Purpose is achieved through goals, and the acid test for any leader is defining the appropriate ones. Too small, and celebrations soon ring hollow. Small goals breed cynicism. But too-big goals produce helplessness. Although it can be temporarily thrilling to rally around a big corporate slogan like “kill the competition,” the reality is that employees can’t do it alone and they can’t do it quickly.
Alignment between corporate goals and personal development has never been more critical. The more unpredictable the outside world, the more urgent the personal quest for self-determination. What employees look for in leadership is a sense that their personal journey and the company journey are part of the same story. When these goals aren’t aligned, employees tend to whine with others, eager to share their sense of anger and injustice, polluting morale. The only way to combat this and get back on track is proper feedback. Give employees the tools to influence their own fate.
Get a life. Keeping morale high is like being on a diet: It requires constant effort and is never over. New ideas, stimuli and motivation come from all around you. It’s the larger life, after all, that gives purpose to the climb.
Alan Deutschman – Senior Writer, Fast Company – writing about how IBM builds new businesses
Look for opportunities that can become profitable [billion-dollar] businesses in five to seven years. You’ll probably find them by talking to customers rather than to brilliant researchers in the labs, who are are looking further ahead.
J. Bruce Harreld – IBM
You want to celebrate failure because you learn something. You need some level of security to say ‘I screwed it up,’ and be comfortable that you won’t be fired.
Marcus Buckingham – Author, Break All The Rules
Turn anxiety into confidence. For a leader, the challenge is that in every society ever studied, the future is unstable, unknown, and therefore potentially dangerous. By far the most effective way to turn fear into confidence is to be clear – to define the future in such vivid terms that we can see where we are headed. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety, and therefore clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.
Effective leaders don’t have to be passionate, charming or brilliant. What they must be is clear – clarity is the essence of great leadership. Show us clearly who we should seek to serve, show us where our core strength lies, show us which score we should focus on and which actions we must take, and we will reward you by working our hearts out to make our better future come true.
See? Told you these folks know what they’re talking about.
Thanks to Fast Company‘s March 2005 issue for providing much of today’s content. (I have quite the collection.)
You missed an opportunity. 1,000 freaking posts. Yeah, I want to hear you reflect on that.
Reflect on 1,000 posts? 😀
My first reaction was actually “what? Only 1,000? I thought I’d written at least 4,000 by now!” 😀
Olivier, I have nothing to add to this post, but I do want to congratulate you to your 1,000th post. Like you say it’s not about the number 1000 but more about the fact that you put your heart and skill into everything you do! Olivier, you have brought the industry forward and we have all learned from you. Thank you for what you do! Keep it up! and I look forward to the next 1,000 posts.
Thanks, Keith. You’re definitely one of the good ones. 🙂
Looking forward to the next 1000. And I would add one for all of us that are behind and need to get up to speed. ‘Start where you are.’ Chris Gardner
That’s good. I like that. 🙂
Just the right touch for number 1,000, Olivier. Like climbing a mountain, when we get to the top, breathe in and marvel at the view, it allows a moment to stop and consider the exceptional things we’ve discovered along the way, those that will inspire and motivate us as we move forward toward the next challenge.
I’ve learned quite a lot, quite a varied lot! over the past year since I discovered your agile, thoughtful reflections and guides … about post 720 or so. It can be a challenge to keep up with someone so nimble but absolutely worth the effort!
I know you won’t stop long to celebrate the achievement. So I’m glad for the pause as an opportunity to say, “Félicitations!” and how I look forward to the path ahead.
Thanks, Diane. I always enjoy your comments as well. 🙂
Congratulations, Olivier. I’m a newcomer to your blog, but it is among my “must-reads,” and this is one reason why. Even if it wasn’t entirely in your words. 😉
Thank you, Christa. 🙂
Happy 1000th! I shall be here to say the same for the 2000th, as you well know.
Great content as always sir.
Thanks, Gemma. 🙂
Nice one Olivier – that’s quite a body of work (that we all benefit from).
Whoa! …Congrats on 1000 Oliver! I’m jumping because I just hit 80+
Congrats to you. 80 is nothing to sneeze at. 🙂
Wow,Finally you have completed your 1000. Great. Highly appreciate your posts. Keep it up!
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